The Stone Hill All-Stars are seasoned crew of players who play a tasty mix of roots fusion music that displays their collective skills from Paul Margolis’ songwriting and vocal prowess to the tight playing of the band and their guests. This is emphasised by the fact that the entire album was recorded live in the studio. It was committed to tape in a single afternoon session which requires a deep understanding of each other’s abilities and a solid knowledge of the songs themselves.
Margolis is joined by guitarist Tim Pruitt, bassist and saxophonist Dan Nainman with Hoppy Hopkins on drums and John Shock on keyboards and accordion as well as vocals. Collectively they make a sound that is immediately full of juke-joint jubilance, loose limbed jazz, border reggae and old world rhythmic rock ’n’ roll. This is a sound that gets feet tapping and suggests that they are the perfect band to cut a rug or two to. These are players who each bring a wealth of experience to bear on the songs and a host of different influences that has them described as ‘the Pogues but with polka’. Not strictly accurate but I see the comparison, especially on the accordion led songs. Another cross reference has been to Ry Cooder which, in truth, might give a clearer picture of the eclectic nature of the overall sound.
This is the band’s third album and one that shows them to be musicians playing music for the joy it brings them rather than as any career move. Several members of the band were previously in The Polkats, a similarly minded collective, and they are in it for the long haul. Songs such as Out Across the Frozen Lake, Jones et al v Petrie and Away all evoke images based on the lyrics that are well enhanced by the music. The All-Stars take them beyond just being words over the music, rather they are something more precise and perceptive. They are many reasons that suggest that The Stone Hill All-Stars will have a wider appeal than just a self-released album; this Baltimore band have made an album well worth checking out.